The Church of the Holy Nativity was founded in 1911 in a predominately white neighborhood. In the 1950s African Americans began to integrate. On a Sunday morning in September, then Rev. David Leighton, who was rector of Holy Nativity during that time, received a note from an usher while preaching, asking him what to do with a black family who was requesting to register their children for Sunday School. Fr. Leighton told the usher to register the family. A few minutes later the same usher returned to inform the rector that all the Sunday School teachers had resigned.
So began Holy Nativity’s ongoing mission for justice and equality. A good number of parishioners left the congregation as members and the clergy leadership moved towards racially integrating worship. The members who stayed became actively involved in the Civil Rights movement, marching, legislating and praying for justice for all.
One of the most noteworthy times for the parish was having the Rev. Pauli Murray as assistant rector. She was the first African-American woman ordained to the priesthood in the Episcopal Church.
Holy Nativity has historically been a leader in Baltimore for the Episcopal Church for social justice issues and racial equality concerns. This does not come without cost. As the neighborhood demographic changed and more people moved in who were not affiliated with the Episcopal Church, membership dwindled. As a result the leadership made a decision to sell the large church building and move somewhere that better suited their financial realities as well as their mission.
In the 1990s the decision was made to move to a neighborhood in Park Heights that had been devastated by years of divestment from the city. Today, Holy Nativity continues to rise above the vestiges of racism by offering worship in a heterogeneous community focused on eradicating the systems that would seek to dehumanize God’s people.
Learn more: https://tcothn.org
Church of the Holy Nativity
4238 Pimlico Road
Baltimore, Maryland 21215
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